The consonant ‘n’
Our next stop was to visit some of the IDP (internally displaced people) students who attended school in the afternoon. Normally in the Congo children attend school in the morning but the IDPs in Beni are using schools that the children who live in the area use in the mornings. Many of the IDPs told me that they would like their own schools so they too could go to school in the morning like the other students. I asked the primary 4 class what problems they faced. They explained they had problems with clothing and shoes and in particular they would love to have their own school uniforms. This was a bit of a change from the attitudes to uniforms in the UK – the young people I work with in Glasgow can’t wait to get away from their uniforms! But in all seriousness the clothes these children have are old and are possibly the only clothes they own, having a uniform would mean a lot to them so they can feel like they are part of the school and fit in.
At the end of the day these children are like any other, they want to feel nice and look good, you can tell just by some of their cool hairstyles, I was very impressed. The fourth form told me they come to school from Monday to Saturday. They said that the teachers in the IDP schools had good skills and felt the teachers treated them in a different way, a better way. This was good to hear. I know from the education team that they put a lot of effort into training the teachers on effective behaviour management and, importantly, the rights of the child.
I learned that many of the IDPs had come from as far away as Goma (400km away!), Rutshuru and South Lubero. When I visited the Primary sixes I met with a girl called Rosette. She had travelled by foot from Kiwanga to flee the fighting and attacks from the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda). It had taken her and her family one week to reach Beni – I was amazed at the distance they had travelled. They have been living as IDPs for 3 months now. In Beni there are no IDP camps so people rely on the good nature of others to take them into their family homes. This makes the job of identifying and counting IDPs even more difficult and time consuming.
Then it was onto the Primary ones – one of the biggest classes. They were facing the challenge of learning about the consonant ‘n’. One of the children said the reason she liked school was so she could speak French there. They enjoyed being free to come to school. They explained to me that those who did not come to school liked to eat but those that go to school can eat after.
It really hit me how important it was for us to provide education in an emergency knowing that some children have been here for a number of months and do not know when they can return home. Imagine how much school they would miss if these classes had not been provided. The dreams of these children becoming priests, nurses, engineers would never be met.
After we left the last class it was play time. The children are happy, despite their circumstances. They play, chase each other, sing and then, realising they can get their photo taken by a Muzungu, run over.